ISTANBUL (AFP) - Dutch international striker Robin van Persie on Tuesday signed for Fenerbahce from Manchester United on a three-year deal, the Istanbul giants announced, in one of the most significant transfers by a Turkish Super Lig side in recent years.
An estimated 18,000 fans clad in the iconic navy blue and yellow stripes of Fenerbahce turned out at its Sukru Saracoglu stadium in Istanbul to witness van Persie’s signing ceremony, chanting his name and letting off flares.
The former Feyenoord and Arsenal player is believed to have put pen to paper on a three-year deal worth 4.7 million euros (S$7 million) although financial details have yet to be officially disclosed.
“I am now part of the Fenerbahce family,” van Persie told fans in comments barely audible amid the deafening atmosphere in the stadium.
“I promise I will do everything in my power to make Fenerbahce win as many trophies as possible to make these fans happy.”
Van Persie said at a news conference later that it was the “passion” of Turkish football that had helped attract him to Istanbul.
“You have seen just now 17-18,000 fans, it’s unbelievable, it’s the first time in my life I experienced anything like that.”
“I am very humbled,” he said.
Van Persie’s signing draws the curtain on three up-and-down years at Manchester United which began in a blaze of promise but ended in injury problems and faltering form.
Van Persie, 31, made 105 appearances and scored 58 goals at Manchester United after joining in August 2012 following his eight-year stint at Arsenal.
But last season was marred by an ankle ligament injury and rumours of tension between himself and Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal, who had guided van Persie and his countrymen to third place in the World Cup finals.
Yet Van Persie said he had “no hard feelings” about the manner of his exit from Old Trafford.
“It was a situation where I could see it coming and I could get used to the idea (of leaving Manchester United) for quite a bit,” van Persie said.
“That is football.”
‘PASSION OF THE FANS’
Fenerbahce – runners up to hated Istanbul rivals Galatasaray last season in the championship – have gone on a spending spree in a bid to dominate the Super Lig and be a real contender in Europe.
A huge priority will be making an impact in the Champions League, where they will start in the third qualifying round.
Last week, they signed Portuguese star Nani also from United for six million euros and in June bought Danish centre-back Simon Kjaer from French side Lille.
Fenerbahce’s flurry of transfer market activity is being masterminded by its well-respected new Italian sporting director Giuliano Terraneo who arrived in May on a mission to make the club a European football force.
But the passion shown towards van Persie on his arrival is also indicative of the pressure he will be under to prove to impatient fans he is still at the top of his game and not a falling star.
“I am used to pressure, it only excites me to see the passion of the fans,” he said.
“Of course they expect high performance from me. What I have just seen is only the start.”
Once the Super Lig gets under way, Van Persie will lock horns with Dutch teammate Wesley Sneijder who plays for Galatasaray.
“He is a very good guy, a friend and a colleague. I am looking forward to the challenge,” said van Persie.
He also revealed that another Dutch national teammate, Dirk Kuyt, who left Fenerbahce last year after a hugely successful spell, had also passed on to him his own passion for the club.
Unlike many foreign players in Turkey, van Persie said he, his wife, young son and daughter would make a priority of learning Turkish as a “first step”.
“Hopefully by next year we can have a conversation in Turkish,” he said.